My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column January 7, 2014: “The empire strikes back: The top issues for NJ in 2013”, with links to sources


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Happy New Year to all Readers.  Thank you as always for reading and commenting.  2014 has a few things looming that will affect life for everyone (not just NJ) in Japan, as I allude to in my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column (came out a few days later than usual, since there was no paper on January 2, on January 7, 2014).

Thanks to everyone once again for putting it in the most-read article for the day, once again. Here’s a version with links to sources. Arudou Debito

The empire strikes back: the top issues for non-Japanese in 2013
JANUARY 7, 2014

Welcome to JBC’s annual countdown of 2013’s top human rights events as they affected non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan. This year was more complex, as issues that once targeted NJ in specific now affect everyone in general. But here are six major events and five “bubble-unders” for your consideration:

11. Marutei Tsurunen, Japan’s first foreign-born Diet member of European descent, loses his seat (see “Ol’ blue eyes isn’t back: Tsurunen’s tale offers lessons in microcosm for DPJ,” JBC, Aug. 5).

10. Donald Richie, one of the last of the first postwar generation of NJ commentators on Japan, dies aged 88.

9. Beate Sirota Gordon, one of the last living architects of the liberalizing reforms within the postwar Japanese Constitution, dies at 89.

8. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto takes a revisionist stance on Japanese history regarding the wartime sex-slave issue and reveals his camp’s political vulnerability (“By opening up the debate to the real experts, Hashimoto did history a favor,” JBC, June 4).

7. Tokyo wins the 2020 Olympics, strengthening the mandate of Japan’s ruling class and vested construction interests (see “Triumph of Tokyo Olympic bid sends wrong signal to Japan’s resurgent right,” JBC, Sept. 1).

6. Xenophobia taints No. 1 cleanup

The Fukushima debacle has been covered better elsewhere, and assessments of its dangers and probable outcomes are for others to debate. Incontrovertible, however, is that international assistance and expertise (despite this being an international problem) have been rejected due to official xenophobia.

Last January, The New York Times quoted Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director of the Environment Ministry and the man in charge of the cleanup, as saying that foreign technologies were somehow not applicable to Japan (“Even if a method works overseas, the soil in Japan is different, for example”), and that foreigners themselves were menacing (“If we have foreigners roaming around Fukushima, they might scare the old grandmas and granddads there”). Nishiyama resigned several months later, but Fukushima’s ongoing crisis continues to be divisively toxic both in fact and thought.

5. Japan to adopt Hague treaty

As the last holdout in the Group of Eight (G-8) nations yet to sign this important treaty governing the treatment of children after divorces, both houses of the Diet took the positive step in May and June (after years of formal nudging by a dozen countries, and a probable shove from U.S. President Barack Obama last February) of unanimously endorsing the convention, with ratification now possible in 2014.

As reported on previous Community pages, Japanese society condones (both in practice and by dint of its legal registration systems) single-parent families severing all contact with one parent after divorce. In the case of international divorces, add on linguistic and visa hurdles, as well as an unsympathetic family court system and a hostile domestic media (which frequently portrays abducting Japanese mothers as liberating themselves from violent foreign fathers).

The Hague treaty seeks to codify and level the playing field for negotiation, settlement and visitation. However, Japanese legal scholars and grass-roots organizations are trying to un-level things by, among other things, fiddling with definitions of “domestic violence” to include acts that don’t involve physical contact, such as heated arguments (bōgen, or violent language) and even glaring at your partner (nirami). Put simply: Lose your temper (or not; just seethe) and you lose your kids. Thus, the treaty will probably end up as yet another international agreement caveated until it is unenforceable in Japan.

4. Visa regimes get a rethink

Two years ago, domestic bureaucrats and experts held a summit to hammer out some policies towards foreign labor. JBC pointed out flaws in their mindsets then (see “In formulating immigration policy, no seat at the table for non-Japanese,” July 3, 2012), and last year they ate some crow for getting it wrong.

First, a highly touted “points system” for attracting highly skilled workers with visa perks (which JBC argued was unrealistically strict; see “Japan’s revolving-door immigration policy hard-wired to fail,” March 6, 2012) had as of September only had 700 applicants; the government had hoped for 2,000. Last month, the Justice Ministry announced it would relax some requirements. It added, though, that more fundamental reforms, such as raising salaries, were also necessary — once again falling for the stereotype that NJ only alight in Japan for money.

In an even bigger U-turn, in October the government lifted its ban on South American NJ of Japanese descent “returning” to Japan. Those who had taken the repatriation bribes of 2009 (see “Golden parachutes for Nikkei mark failure of race-based policy,” JBC, April 7, 2009), giving up their accumulated welfare benefits and Japanese pensions for an airfare home, were now welcome to return to work — as long as they secured stable employment (as in, a one-year contract) before arrival. Good luck with that.

Again, what’s missing in all this is, for example, any guarantee of a) equal protection under labor and civil law against discrimination, b) equal educational opportunities for their children, and c) an integration and settlement program ensuring that revolving-door visas and tenuous jobs do not continue forever. But the Abe administration has never made a formal immigration plan one of its policy “arrows”; and, with the bigger political priorities discussed below, this is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

3. Hate speech turns murderous

This was also the year that the genteel mask of “polite, peace-loving Japan” slipped a bit, with a number of demonstrations across the nation advocating outright hatred and violence towards NJ. “Good Koreans or bad, kill them all,” proclaimed one placard, while another speaker was recorded on video encouraging a “massacre” in a Korean neighborhood of Osaka. An Asahi Shimbun reporter tweeted that anti-Korean goods were being sold on Diet grounds, while xenophobic invective (even rumors of war with China) became normalized within Japan’s salacious tabloids (see here and here).

It got so bad that the otherwise languid silent majority — who generally respond to xenophobia by ignoring it — started attending counterdemonstrations. Even Japan’s courts, loath to take strong stands on issues that might “curb freedom of speech,” formally recognized “hate speech” as an illegal form of racial discrimination in October, and ordered restitution for victims in one case (a Zainichi Korean school) and a year of actual jail time in another (for harassing a company that had used a Korean actress in its advertising).

However, leading politicians offered only lukewarm condemnations of the hatred (Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called it “dishonorable,” months after the fact) and no countermeasures. In fact, in April, Tokyo’s then-governor, Naoki Inose, slagged off fellow Olympic candidate city Istanbul by denigrating Islam — yet Tokyo still got the games.

Meanwhile, people who discussed issues of discrimination in Japan constructively (such as American teacher Miki Dezaki, whose viral YouTube video on the subject cost him his job and resulted in him retreating to a Buddhist monastery for a year) were bullied and sent death threats, courtesy of Japan’s newly labeled legion of anonymous netto uyoku (Internet rightists).

This political camp, as JBC has argued in the past two annual Top 10 lists, is ascendant in Japan as the country swings further to the right. With impressive victories:

2. LDP holds both Diet chambers

In July, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party accomplished its primary goal by chalking up a landslide victory in the Upper House to complement its equally decisive win in the Lower House in December 2012. Then, with virtually no opposition from the left, it got cocky in its deceptiveness.

Shortly after the election, Deputy PM Taro Aso enthused aloud about Nazi Germany’s policymaking tactics, advocating similar stealth for radical constitutional reforms before Japan’s public realizes it. Later it became clear that LDP reform proposals (excising, for example, “Western” conceits of individuality, human rights and a demystified head of state, and replacing them with the duty to “respect” national symbols, the “public interest” and “public order”) might be too difficult to accomplish if laws were actually followed. So off went Abe’s gaijin-handlers on overseas missions (see “Japan brings out the big guns to sell remilitarization in U.S.,” JBC, Nov. 6) to announce that reinterpretations of the Constitution’s current wording would resolve pesky postwar restrictions.

Meanwhile, Abe was being rebranded for foreign consumption as a peace-loving “ethnic nationalist” instead of (in JBC’s view) a radical historical revisionist and regional destabilizing force. Not only was his recent visit to controversial Yasukuni Shrine repackaged as a mere pilgrimage to Japan’s version of Arlington National Cemetery, but Japan’s remilitarization was also portrayed as a means to assist America and the world in more effective peacekeeping operations, as seen in Abe’s “human security” and “proactive peace policy” neologisms.

As always, a liberal slathering of “peace” talk helps the munitions go down. Just pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. For curtains are precisely what are being drawn with the passage of:

1. The state secrets law

In a country where most reforms proceed at a glacial pace, the Act on Protection of Specified Secrets took everyone by surprise, moving from the public-debate back burner to established law in mere weeks. We still don’t know what will be designated as a “secret,” although official statements have made it clear it would include information about Fukushima, and could be used to curtail “loud” public rallies by protesters LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba likened to “terrorists.”

We do know that the punishments for leakers, including journalists, will be severe: up to 10 years’ jail for leaking something the government says it doesn’t want leaked, and five for “conspiracy” for attempting to get information even if the investigating party didn’t know it was “secret.” It’s so vague that you can get punished for allegedly “planning” the leak — even before the leak has happened or concrete plans have been made to leak. Although resoundingly condemned by Japan’s media, grass roots and the United Nations, it was too little, too late: Stealth won.

The state secrets law is an unfolding issue, but JBC shares the doomsayers’ view: It will underpin the effort to roll back Japan’s postwar democratic reforms and resurrect a prewar-style society governed by perpetual fear of reprisal, where people even in privileged positions will be forced to double-guess themselves into silence regarding substantiated criticism of The State (see the JT’s best article of the year, “The secret of keeping official secrets secret,” by Noriko Hama, Japanese Perspectives, Nov. 30).

After all, information is power, and whoever controls it can profoundly influence social outcomes. Moreover, this law expands “conspiracy” beyond act and into thought. Japan has a history of “thought police” (tokubetsu kōtō keisatsu) very effectively controlling the public in the name of “maintaining order.” This tradition will be resuscitated when the law comes into force in 2014.

In sum, 2013 saw the enfranchised elite consolidating their power further than has ever been seen in the postwar era, while Japan’s disenfranchised peoples, especially its NJ residents, slipped ever lower down the totem pole, becoming targets of suspicion, fear and loathing.

May this year be a healthy one for you and yours. ARUDOU, Debito

21 comments on “My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column January 7, 2014: “The empire strikes back: The top issues for NJ in 2013”, with links to sources

  • Baudrillard says:

    The Silent Japanese, that old cliché, is being resurrected by Abe. The nail that sticks up gets hammered down (and so just goes out and gets hammered a hostess bar as its only release).

    “Lose your temper (or not; just seethe) and you lose your kids. ” And the Official Secrets Act are just part and parcel of the same thing- towards a beautiful and silent country. As you write, people will have to second guess themselves into silence.

    “The rest is silence?”

    As for the stereotype that NJs only come to Japan for money, well what else remains? It certainly will not be for the scintillating conversation, except of course to come and experience those time honored clichés like “We Japanese do not express our opinion” or “Japan is Safety Country”.

    Perhaps the sheer scale of the cognitive dissonance and whitewash one can now experience in Japan is a postmodern Theatre of the Absurd worth coming for!?

    I think this is the society Abe and Taro Ass’o want to resurrect- The Japan That Can Stay Silent”, letting its Mandarins (Chinese similarity pun unintended) stonewall in international relations behind the clichés of who and what We Japanese are.

    This will certainly come in use regarding the new taboo of discussing the shame of Fukushima.

  • Baudrillard says:

    P.S. The reason Abe calls the right’s hate speech dishonorable is because they too do not keep silent (and let their Lords and betters do all the talking).

    That is probably why Ishihara and Hashimoto are in a different party- they are the (right wing, natch) “Party” That Can Spout Diatribes. Abe does not like this style.

    Its purely a difference in styles. Abe does things by stealth, or going to Yasukuni and then trying to rebrand the “reason” for his action. Ishihara is more in your face confrontational.

    Also notice that Abe puts a “liberal” spin on his policies. He can do this because his party is, after all, the “Liberal Dictatorship (sorry, I mean Democratic) Party”.

    According to most postmodern brands, therefore his actions must in fact be perceived as “liberal”. At least, that is what his gaijin handlers hope the western media will fall for (though this time they haven’t).

  • Baudrillard says:

    And if I may comment a third time on “The Rest is Silence”, the irony of another so called “goal” of Abe’s- increased English fluency is surely doomed to failure if people fear to give their opinion;

    Still, I have maintained that not a few Japanese “spokespeople” (self appointed or not) learn clichés to trot out to visiting NJs, or just to explain why the answer is invariably “No”, with little flexibility in “THE RULES” whatsoever.

    “The Japan That Can Only Say No” (and fluently spout/memorize clichés that you have heard before).

  • WOW, this IS news–sector.html#HBvKECv

    Never thought I would see Koizumi as a blessing, or that he would turn on Abe. Go Koizumi! Go Hosokawa!

    Love the top comment “more Japanese people see Abe as a fascist lunatic” (lol).


    Japan’s Koizumi backs fellow ex-PM in opposing nuclear power
    By Linda Sieg | Reuters – 7 hours ago
    Reuters – 10 hours ago
    By Linda Sieg

    TOKYO (Reuters) – Two former Japanese prime ministers challenged incumbent Shinzo Abe’s pro-nuclear power policy on Tuesday, with charismatic Junichiro Koizumi backing ex-premier Morihiro Hosokawa’s bid to become Tokyo governor on a platform opposing atomic energy.

    Hosokawa’s candidacy could turn the local election into a referendum on Abe’s energy policies and boost the anti-nuclear movement, which has lost momentum after a surge following the March 2011 Fukushima disaster, the world’s worst nuclear accident in 25 years.

    Surveys show most voters favour abandoning nuclear power, but the electorate nonetheless propelled Abe’s pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) back to power in December 2012, largely because of his promises to revive the economy and divisions among anti-nuclear opposition forces.

    Asked why he was coming out of retirement to seek the Tokyo governor post, Hosokawa, 76, told reporters: “Because I have a sense of crisis that Japan faces various problems, especially nuclear power that could imperil the fate of the country.”
    Koizumi, one of Japan’s most popular prime ministers from 2001 to 2006, has already nagged Abe with his anti-nuclear power pitch, a turnabout from the days when led the LDP.

    “The biggest reason why I support Mr. Hosokawa is his view that Japan can prosper without nuclear power,” a silver-haired Koizumi, 72, told reporters.

    Hosokawa, heir to a samurai lineage, seized the imagination of a public weary of decades of scandal-tainted LDP rule when he formed the pro-reform Japan New Party in 1992. The next year, he took power at the head of a multi-party coalition that ousted the LDP for the first time in nearly 40 years.

    But his unwieldy coalition fractured and Hosokawa stepped down after just eight months amid a financial scandal. He was never charged but his image as a bold reformer was tarnished, and he retired from politics in 1998, taking up pottery instead.

    How much of a threat the Hosokawa-Koizumi duo poses to Abe is hard to gauge, but Koizumi could be a draw on the campaign trail, while the candidacy could tap into a deep well of anti-atomic power sentiment even as the government seeks to restart nuclear reactors off-line since the Fukushima disaster.

    A tsunami crashed into the plant on March 11, 2011, causing fuel-rod meltdowns, radioactive contamination of air, sea and food and triggering the evacuation of 160,000 people in the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

    “Given that the LDP government has been seeking to resume nuclear power generation slowly and quietly without drawing too much popular attention, Hosokawa’s candidacy is bad news in itself,” said Sophia University professor Koichi Nakano.

    “What Hosokawa and Koizumi show is that the anti-nuclear hopes are not held just by left-wing radicals, but also by a good number of middle class including even those who are conservative otherwise.”

    A survey by the local Tokyo newspaper showed that about two-thirds of Tokyo voters want to exit nuclear power sooner or later, while just over nine percent back the government policy.

    A government panel said last month that Japan should embrace nuclear power as an “important and fundamental” energy source, rejecting the previous government’s plan to abandon atomic energy after the meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Fukushima Daiichi plant.

    Still, Hosokawa’s age and the way he left office could cloud the outlook for his campaign.

    “Hosokawa has little direct contact with Tokyo and Tokyo governor elections are more about name recognition and local connections than policies,” said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Temple University’s Japan Campus.

    The Tokyo poll follows the resignation in December of then-governor Naoki Inose – three months after he helped the capital win its bid for the 2020 Olympics – over his receipt of 50 million yen ($484,000) from a scandal-hit hospital chain.

    “Twenty years ago, Mr. Hosokawa stepped down as prime minister due to a problem regarding money – twice as much money as in Mr. Inose’s case – from Sagawa Kyubin,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

    “I wonder how this will be viewed by people in Tokyo.”

    Hosokawa resigned in 1994 amid criticism over a 100 million yen loan he had taken 12 years earlier from the scandal-tainted Sagawa Kyubin trucking firm.

    Other candidates include former air force chief of staff Toshio Tamogami, who resigned in 2008 after denying in an essay that Japan was the aggressor in World War Two. He heads the nationalist group “Gambare Nippon” (Stand Firm! Japan).

  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    And while we’re revisiting the empire:

    The Abe administration is considering describing the Senkaku Islands, considered part of Okinawa, and the Takeshima islets in the Sea of Japan as integral parts of the country in instruction manuals for school curriculum guidelines, education minister Hakubun Shimomura said.

    China claims the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands as its own, and South Korea effectively controls the Takeshima outcroppings, which it calls Dokdo.

    The instruction manuals are usually upgraded every decade or so.

    The existing instruction manuals were released in 2008 for elementary and junior high school teachers and in 2009 for high school teachers.

    It is unusual for the ministry to revise the manuals before the revision of school curriculum guidelines.

    Shimomura said at a news conference Tuesday that it is extremely important for children, “who are the future of Japan,” to correctly understand the nation’s territory .

    In social studies for junior high school students, the existing instruction manual refers to Takeshima, which Japan considers part of Shimane Prefecture, and the Russian-held islands northwest of Hokkaido, but Takeshima is not mentioned in the manual for high schools.

    The Senkaku Islands are not referred to in the manuals for junior high schools or high schools.

    When Takeshima was described as Japanese territory in the junior high school manual for social studies in 2008, there was a strong backlash from South Korea, which temporarily recalled its ambassador.

    China and South Korea have already reacted to media reports about the administration’s current plan, but Shimomura said any protest is inappropriate because it is normal for an independent nation to teach children about their country’s territory.

    If the instruction manuals are revised, the government will explain the revision to neighboring countries through diplomatic channels, he said.

  • “….Shimomura said at a news conference Tuesday that it is extremely important for children, “who are the future of Japan,” to correctly understand the nation’s territory …..”

    Pity they don’t show the same zeal of “importance” to the children regrading history and Imperial Japan’ past atrocities. to explain why all Japan’s neighbours do not engage with them and perpetuates the existing friction and distrust.

  • Baudrillard says:

    “the government will explain the revision to neighboring countries through diplomatic channels, ”

    I love this. As if it is all just a misunderstanding, and just needs to be “explained”.

    As we discussed on other threads, there is absolutely no flexibility or compromise here, just a laying down of how the Govt of Japan sees things, and how the rest of Asia needs to “understand” it.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Baudrillard #7

    “the government will explain the revision to neighboring countries through diplomatic channels, ” Shut up! Shut up! Why are you laughing

    Well, this time I’m laughing because of the interview the ambassador to the UK gave the BBC this week- it’s a clear cut case of ‘jobs for the boys’, and ‘we can give the gaijin any old BS’. Unfortunately, his English language skills are poor, and his body language reeks of disdain for Paxman.

    N.B. He tells two falsehoods!
    1. He says that Abe has no plan to change the pacifist constitution.
    2. He says that China and Japan need to resolve the Senkaku issue through dialogue despite Abe saying the is no dispute to discuss.

    — I don’t think the Japanese Ambassador’s English is all that bad. But his mastery of language behind expressing the talking points is lacking compared to the Chinese representative, who AFAIS runs rings around him in the debate.

  • Actually I think that the Japanese ambassador did quite well … for a Japanese. I also think that Japan really needs to be promoting more truly bilingual and bicultural citizens into its foreign service (as does China, for that matter). I’m optimistic that it will happen in our lifetimes.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    I’m Japanese. But, to be fair, I can’t see Mr. Hayashi’s argument persuasive enough to the interviewer, compared to the Chinese ambassador. He clearly misses the point on the emergence of island issue as a part of an ensuing bi-lateral tension. He instead attributes it all to China by overlooking the fact that both nations did not engage in detailed conversation over the issue for three decades. Also, his defense of Abe is clumsy at best, especially, when the question is focused on rewriting the constitution that will empower Japan for deliberate confrontation with her diplomatic enemy. His response falls short of refuting Abe’s semi-sincere attitude on reflection of national history and promise for an open-ended diplomatic dialogue.

  • Sorry guys, I disagree.

    It is reasonable to expect that the Japanese ambassador to the UK speaks English like a native (native American at least!).
    English is not a minority language, there are plenty of Japanese ‘haafu’ and Japanese who have lived and studied in the US, UK, and Australia, who speak fluently, and have sufficient social and cultural skills to convey complex ideas in English. The sad fact is that the ambassador isn’t one of them. This is, of course, a symptom of Japan’s problems; ‘haafu’ and Japanese that have lived abroad are discriminated against in employment in Japan, and are therefore unlikely to have the ‘old boy’ connections to get such a position, are they?

    Put the interview in context; the Harry Potter claim by the Chinese ambassador in the UK’s Telegraph newspaper was an attempt (however misjudged) to reach out to the UK readers and show that the Chinese share some common culture with the UK. What’s the best that the Japanese ambassador could do when the Telegraph went to him; ‘No, China is Voldemort’.

    The Japanese ambassador was on BBC’s Newsnight to with (presumably) the goal of winning hearts and minds in the media war over the Senkaku’s and Abe’s right-wing views and actions. Instead of having someone who can field questions whilst right at home doing so, with a ‘hey, you Brits and we Japanese are just the same; small island nation (etc)’, they got a guy who is just like the previous UN Human Rights envoy. Just like at that time, the guy spouted tatemae, and Paxman called him out on it.

  • @ Baudrillard #7

    Tamogami, who is running for Mayor of Tokyo seems to think that ‘understanding’ will be easier if Japan has nuclear weapons, read his ‘essays’.

  • #8JDG

    Thanks for that video link.

    Agreed, the J ambassador comes across as wanting to slap Paxman down for being so insolent to dare to ask such questions. Whereas the C ambassador lays out the dispute and cites the Cairo treaty. J is invoking the usual misdirection…as he did with his attempts at UK sovereignty (what ahs that got to do with the dispute) and simply fails to grasp the whole situation and why it is a thorny issue. If the J ambassador is so keen to cite the “rule of law”..why omit the Cairo treaty in his debate?

  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    I love the “status quo” arguments: all territory aquired as a result of war must be returned – as long as it suits us.

    But perhaps more telling was the Japanese ambassador’s assertion that Abe doesn’t want to change Article 9 – his tone and body language reminds me of a school kid caught breaking the rules but claiming that he wasn’t.

  • Baudrillard says:

    Love Paxman’s opening question; “why don’t you just give them to the Chinese?” I don’t think anyone living in Japan now would dare to say this; in fact we have all become so subconsciously conditioned to pussyfoot around that it honestly never entered my mind to be so blatant a devil’s advocate.

    The closest I get to this audacity is to say they are near Taiwan, ergo give them to Taiwan (or an independent Okinawa).

    Great respect to Paxman for not giving Japan the free pass they always seem to get from western commentators- as a result of their “re branding” as a western country, etc.

    The guise seems to be slipping, despite this rather feeble attempt to “explain” (basically, to lie and re brand. Note the repetition of “peaceful”, somewhat reminiscent of Lenin’s “Peace/Bread/land” soundbyte.

    In a way it reminds me of the bathhouses “ensuring foreigners to behave properly”. The Japan Experience- where rules on how to live and think are explained to you.

  • Baudrillard says:

    Seen the new Abe gaffe? Not content to redefine WW2, he has to go back to WW1 as well now:

    Apparently this interview was done on the understanding it would not be recorded or reported (hows that for Japan trying to muzzle the media?)perhaps in an attempt to reduce the inevitable gaffes emerging, which they then did…..

    January 25, 2014
    Foreign Ministry officials were scrambling to deal with the backlash over Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s comparison of the current state of relations between Japan and China to that of Britain and Germany before the start of World War I a century ago.

    Abe made the comparison during a meeting with media representatives on the sidelines of the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

    The Financial Times reported that Abe did not deny the possibility of war breaking out between Japan and China.

    Officials in the prime minister’s office in Tokyo were critical of the reports in the Western media, with one saying Abe’s remarks were taken out of context, while another said, “There might have been a misinterpretation.”

    At a Jan. 24 news conference in Tokyo, Katsunobu Kato, a deputy chief Cabinet secretary, explained that Abe’s comment was intended to call for the creation of communication channels between those in charge of national defense in Japan and China to prevent an accidental military encounter.

    “We will make efforts so that the true intentions of the prime minister can be transmitted,” Kato said.

    According to several government sources, the meeting with foreign media representatives in Davos was initially set on the premise that Abe’s remarks would not be reported. However, Abe agreed to have the session on the record, leading to his remark about the current state of relations between Japan and China.

    In the background to Abe’s desire to speak openly are his past comments made during trips abroad. Abe has repeatedly touched upon the importance of the rule of law, an apparent reference to China’s recent moves. Abe made those comments in an attempt to gain the support of foreign nations for Japan’s position.

    “If you want to refer to me as a right-wing militarist, please do so,” Abe said when he visited the United States last September.

    With China criticizing Abe’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine in December, he may have felt a need to directly address the current relations between the two nations in his own words.

    A comparison of the current standoff between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea with the situation between Britain and Germany on the eve of World War I is one view that has been touched upon by those involved in national security issues in Japan.

    “It is one disturbing example of war breaking out despite strong economic dependence between two nations,” said a senior Defense Ministry official.

    A high-ranking government official said that Abe may have had that view in mind when he made his comment in Davos.

    At the same time, it is clear that foreign media will likely have a different take on any comment by a national leader that refers to the situation between Britain and Germany before the Great War flared in 1914. Moreover, foreign media have repeatedly painted Abe as a hawkish leader.

    “This is a major issue,” said an expert involved in national security issues in the Abe administration. “This is an error on the scale of his visit to Yasukuni.”

    Foreign Ministry officials have been working overtime in trying to deal with the ripples around the world from Abe’s comment. Explanations were made to the British media through the Japanese Embassy in London. Translation work also had to be done to explain his remarks to other Western media.

    “We are truly troubled by this,” one ministry official said.

    However, there are few in the ministry willing to remonstrate Abe.

    “From the standpoint of diplomatic history, using the example from World War I was correct,” one high-ranking Foreign Ministry official said.

    There also appear to be no moves within the prime minister’s office to analyze what prompted the criticism over Abe’s remark.

    One high-ranking government official said, “Why are Japanese media becoming involved with pointing out a remark by their own prime minister?”

    Meanwhile, China was stepping up the criticism it had been directing at Abe since his visit to Yasukuni, which Beijing considers a symbol of Japanese militarism during World War II because Class-A war criminals are enshrined there along with Japan’s war dead.

    On Jan. 23, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi issued a statement that openly criticized Abe and said, “His excuses will only come back to haunt him.”

    The Chinese Foreign Ministry also quickly picked up on the reporting in the Western media.

    At a Jan. 23 news conference, Qin Gang, a ministry spokesman, said, “Yasukuni memorializes Class-A war criminals who were the Nazis of the Orient.”

    A Japanese government source said: “Bringing up World War I in Europe is a very sensitive issue. This will make it only more difficult for any contact with China.”

  • And so it continues:

    “..Tensions between Japan and its neighbours over historical issues have flared at the UN Security Council, with strong words from top envoys..”

    “..Chinese Ambassador Liu Jieyi said the Japanese prime minister’s recent visit to the controversial Yasukuni shrine had “closed the door to dialogue”….South Korea’s envoy, meanwhile, accused Japan of having a “distorted view” of history.

  • Baudrillard says:

    Style and spin propaganda over content again:

    its all a misunderstanding, blame the NJ media?

    said an expert involved in national security issues in the Abe administration. “This is an error on the scale of his visit to Yasukuni.”


    “Explanations”, i.e. “spin” and no negotation, just narrative control?

    Foreign Ministry officials have been working overtime in trying to deal with the ripples around the world from Abe’s comment. Explanations were made to the British media through the Japanese Embassy in London. Translation work also had to be done to explain his remarks to other Western media.


    No internal dissent?

    However, there are few in the ministry willing to remonstrate Abe.

    “From the standpoint of diplomatic history, using the example from World War I was correct,” one high-ranking Foreign Ministry official said.


    NO analysis or internal soul searching about WHY the furor?

    There also appear to be no moves within the prime minister’s office to analyze what prompted the criticism over Abe’s remark.


    Shaming the Japanese press into silence for being “disloyal”?

    One high-ranking government official said, “Why are Japanese media becoming involved with pointing out a remark by their own prime minister?”


    Bizarre twist of Japan’s gaffes to blame China once again?

    A Japanese government source said: “Bringing up World War I in Europe is a very sensitive issue. This will make it only more difficult for any contact with China.”


  • “Anything other than unstinting support for Japan is taken as a lack of backbone.” Ah, the extreme lack of flexibility ort compromise we all know so well!

    A Rebuke to Japanese Nationalism
    By The Editors Bloomberg News, Feb 16, 2014

    A series of recent blunt statements from U.S. officials have left no doubt that Washington blames China’s maritime expansionism for rising tensions in Asia. Now, America’s main ally in the region needs to hear a similarly forthright message.

    Japan had been clamoring for the U.S. to speak out more forcefully after China imposed an “air-defense identification zone” over a set of islands claimed by both countries. Officials in Tokyo have warned that any hint of daylight between Americans and Japanese only encourages further bullying from the mainland. For that same reason, U.S. officials have tempered their criticism of statements and actions by Japanese leaders that irk China, not to mention other victims of Japanese aggression during World War II.

    This circumspection is becoming counterproductive. Since China imposed its air-defense identification zone in November, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has visited the deeply controversial Yasukuni shrine, which honors, along with millions of fallen soldiers from various conflicts, 14 Class A war criminals from World War II. What’s more, several of Abe’s nominees to the board of the state broadcaster NHK have made appallingly retrograde comments that Abe has declined to disavow. One claimed the horrific 1937 Nanjing Massacre never took place, while another pooh-poohed complaints that the Japanese military had exploited thousands of women from Korea and elsewhere as sex slaves during the war. Other Abe allies are busily trying to rewrite textbooks to downplay Japan’s wartime brutality.

    Japanese officials seem unconcerned with the impression all this creates abroad, arguing that relations with China and even with fellow U.S. ally South Korea can hardly get worse, and in any case are unlikely to improve so long as nationalists remain in power in those countries. A more conciliatory Japanese attitude, they are convinced, would only prompt endless humiliating demands from Beijing and Seoul.

    Worse, Japan seems to be taking U.S. backing for granted. Abe went to Yasukuni even after Vice President Joe Biden quietly urged him not to. Details of their conversation were then strategically leaked, presumably to showcase Abe’s defiant stance. In private, Japanese officials snipe about the Barack Obama administration’s alleged unreliability. Anything other than unstinting support for Japan is taken as a lack of backbone.

    The U.S. should push back, and less gently than usual. President Obama’s trip to Asia in April is an opportunity for the White House not only to reaffirm its disapproval of Chinese adventurism but also to make clear that Abe’s provocations are threatening stability in the region, and damaging the U.S.-Japan alliance.

    This won’t change many minds inside Abe’s inner circle, of course. But most Japanese are acutely sensitive to any hint of U.S. displeasure. (Nearly 70 percent of respondents to one poll called on Abe to heed the negative reaction to his Yasukuni visit, which included a mild expression of “disappointment” from U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy.) Voters threw out Abe once before when he let nationalist obsessions distract him from minding the economy. Sustained domestic pressure is needed to rein him in again.

    Abe is not necessarily wrong to want to make Japan a more muscular nation — to rejuvenate its economy, open up its society and normalize its self-defense forces. A more robust Japanese military could play a bigger role in promoting global and regional stability — whether through anti-piracy patrols or peacekeeping missions — and come to the defense of its allies. Inflaming Chinese and Korean sensitivities helps achieve none of those goals.

    All it does is raise the likelihood of conflict in the region. That Abe’s recent actions and comments may be less dangerous than China’s adventurism is beside the point. He’s eroding the international goodwill that Japan has built up over decades as a responsible democracy — all for no good reason. If he can’t see that for himself, perhaps the U.S. — and his own citizens — can help him.


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